Alright, y'all. Time for the down and dirty catch-up blog post. I know, it's been over a month. And certain of you keep nagging me to update my public on life in Paris..... but hey, I've been busy! Living life, cooking food, traveling, and hosting visitors. And you expect me to write??
So yes, here comes the update. (And yes, I was technically supposed to come home a month ago. That's true. But I wasn't done. There was more cooking to learn, more living in Paris to do. So I'm here to finish the diploma, and I get back to the States in late December. Really. I promise.)
The last ten days of basic cuisine ... in a nutshell:
Soupe de moules l
egerement safranee (lightly saffroned mussel soup), cotes de veau grand-mere (Grandma's veal chops ... not my grandma, but perhaps some French grandma!), and fins sables aux pistaches, fraises a l'italienne (strawberries Italian-style with pistachio biscuits
-- one of my favorite desserts of the term). This day I learned that I like veal chops when they're not overcooked (and when they're served with mushrooms, onions, and bacon), and the combination of pistachio, strawberry, basil, whipped cream, and mascarpone is amazing.
des au muscadet (warm oysters with Muscadet), canette rotie aux navets (roast duckling with turnips), souffle chaud au Cointreau (warm orange and Cointreau souffle). Learned that while I love magret de canard, and Peking duck, plain old roast duck does
n't do it for me. And when Andre Cointreau is the owner of your cooking school, you make Cointreau souffles, rather than Grand Marni(er) souffles. Oh well.
Queues de langoustines grillees aux epices, sauce vierge (grillled langoustines with spices, olive oil sauce), gr
atin de saumon au cresson (salmon and watercress gratin), saute de boeuf Stroganoff, rix aux legumes (beef Stroganoff, rice with vegetables). As I had learned from Mark earlier in the year, langoustines have a tendency
to be mealy, and in order to wind up with a couple of good ones, you have to cook lots of extras. I just don't think they're worth it. Give me a grilled jumbo shrimp over a grilled langoustine any day. (Who's from Louisiana? Geaux Tigers!) But this beef Stroganoff recipe? It's going to become a staple, I loved it! And since I've gotten decent at brunoising vegetables, might as well...
Flan de truite, sauce porto (trout flan with port sauce), medaillons des porc charcutiere, pommes Dauphine (pork medallions in charcutiere sauce, potatoes Dauphine), sabayon aux fruits frais gratines (fresh fruit gratin with
sabayon). Apparently, it's not a sauce charcutiere without cornichons, as much as I tried to convince Chef it would be better that way...
Gnocchis au fro
mage a la Parisienne (Parisian gnocchi. I kid you not. I never knew such a thing existed. And don't tell anyone, but I prefer the Italian kind...), poulet saute a l'estragon, bouquetiere de
legumes (sauteed chicken with tarragon, and turned vegetable garnish), pommes meringuees, jus de framboise (apples with meringue, raspberry sauce). So Parisian gnocchi are a mixture of pate a choux (the dough used for eclairs, but unsweetened) and potato, cooked and then placed in a gratin dish with cheese to brown. I'm just not into it. Boiled pastry dough? Blech.
I am, however, getting somewhat better at turning vegetables. Still think it's a silly skill, but turns out practice really does help.
Oeufs brouilles au
saumon fume (scrambled eggs with smoked salmon), terrine de poisson chaude, beurre blanc (hot fish terrine with beurre blanc), creme bavaroise a la vanille, sauce cafe (vanilla bavarian
cream with coffee sauce). I can't wait to visit my parents, and try out my new scrambled eggs techniques with Dad. His scrambled eggs are the best, but maybe I can give him a tip or two from the French chefs! And, fish terrine is shockingly better than expected.
Filets de daurade poeles au fenouil (sea bream fillets with fennel), pintadeaux de loue au chou (guinea fowl wi
th cabbage), rezules au poires (fried pear-filled puffs). This may have been my favorite fish dish to prepare in basic, despite the fact that I don't love fennel (sorry John). I've become decent at fileting daurade, julienning fennel isn't the worst thing in the world, and the dish plates nicely. I found myself hoping I'd get this dish on
the final exam (notice the foreshadowing?) Also, pear desserts are fantastic. I've known this since the days of the pear tart at Cahors in Tokyo, and it is still true.
Salade de chevre chaud a la ventreche (warm goat cheese salad with bacon), jambonnette de volaille et son j
us au madere, pommes poelees caramelisees (stuffed chicken legs, madeira jus with caramelized apples), mousse au chocolat a l'orange (chocolate and orange mousse). Yum. That's pretty much all there is to say about this day. Oh, except for this -- in order to stuff a chicken leg, you remove the thigh bone, and chop off part of the leg bone, and then push it down so it remains as a handle, but does not extend too far into the meat of the chicken leg, so there's room to put the stuffing. So I
did all of this, stuffed the chicken legs, and set off to cook them up. Of course, one of my chicken legs was more artfully stuffed and manchonner-ed than the other, so I had my eye on that one to serve to Chef. But when I picked up the leg to turn in the pan, I had the brilliant idea of picking it up by the bone (to avoid piercing the skin or meat!) -- and pulled the bone clear out of the leg. Apparently I was a little overzealous in my manchonner-ing. But this really was the most beautiful piece, still, so when it came time to plate, I covertly jammed the leg bone back in, and crossed my fingers that Chef wouldn't lift the leg by its bone when he was tasting. (All worked out well.)
rgots aux champignons des bois (snails with wild mushrooms, in a pastry case), pave de sandre, sauce aux herbes, ratatouille (pikeperch steak, herb sauce, ratatouille), magret de canard a l'orange (duck breast in orange sauce). All I'll say is this, thanks to Chef Cotte, I think I've
learned the secret to an orange gastrique, and magret a l'orange is definitely on the short list for my first dinner party when I get back to DC.
Carre d'agneau roti persille, legumes printaniers et tomates farcies (rack of lamb with parsley crust, spring vegetabl
es, and stuffed tomatoes), gratin dauphinois (potato gratin), omelette norvegienne (baked Alaska). This is also on the short list for the aforementioned dinner party. Wow. This was our last class in basic, so Chef made enough for us to each have a
full meal, and we popped a few bottles of champagne. It was not a bad day.
All that was left was the written exam, and the practical exam (yes, I was nervous; and yes, I got the fennel fish; and yes, it went well). And graduation!
Next post? What we've done so far in intermediate! And travels outside of Paris! And visitors!